‘We must rebuild Britain’: IPA chief Nick Smallwood reflects on 2020 and looks to the year ahead

2020 was a year unlike any other, with the coronavirus pandemic upending the work of government and changing how we live our daily lives. Senior figures from across the civil service tell us how the unprecedented 12 months affected them, and look ahead to 2021
IPA chief executive Nick Smallwood

By Civil Service World

15 Dec 2020

 

What are you proudest of government achieving in 2020?

When I joined the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) last year, I set my focus on the “Three Ps”; people, performance and principles. Whilst Covid-19 threw us some unexpected challenges to overcome, I am proud of the progress that we’ve made.

To name a couple of examples, teams from across the IPA made significant contributions to the publication of the National Infrastructure Strategy and the Construction Playbook, we worked collaboratively with industry to ensure that the construction sector could operate efficiently and safely during the height of the crisis, and we published the principles for project success which act as a quick guide on things to get right for any project to succeed.

There is also lots of great work to build on in the coming year, we will continue to transform our approach to assurance, progress our work in standardising benchmarking and cost estimating best practice across government, and drive forward the new Government Projects Academy.

What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2020?

There’s no escaping the fact that it has been a challenging year to be a leader. Concerns regarding the wellbeing of my colleagues, and of course family and friends, have been at the forefront of my mind.

But whilst it has been a challenging year to be a leader, I am incredibly proud of the way in which my colleagues have reacted and adapted in the face of such adversity. And not only this, I’ve seen inspiring examples of colleagues going the extra mile to support their communities outside of work.

What are the main challenges facing the government in the coming year?

The main challenge facing the government in the coming year is clear, we must rebuild Britain and fuel economic recovery across the country following Covid-19. I am pleased to see that the government is committed “to using this crisis to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades”.

The IPA will play a vital role in this and I am looking forward to supporting the delivery of an infrastructure revolution that will help level up the country, strengthen the union, and put the UK on the path to net zero emissions by 2050.

People will have to be more creative about celebrating this year. How will you make the festive period on Zoom special?

My birthday is actually on Christmas Day, so Christmas is usually a very celebratory time for me! And although we can’t celebrate as we normally would, I am looking forward to spending time with my family, catching up with friends (albeit virtually) and enjoying the odd mince pie or two.

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